Tear Duct Probing

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Many children are born with an underdeveloped tear-duct system, a problem that can lead to tear-duct blockage, excess tearing, and infection.

Blocked tear ducts are common in infants; as many as one third may be born with this condition. Fortunately, more than 90% of all cases resolve by the time kids are 1 year old with little or no treatment.The earlier that blocked tear ducts are discovered, the less likely it is that infection will result or that surgery will be necessary.

About Tear Ducts

Our eyes are continually exposed to dust, bacteria, viruses, and other objects that could cause damage, and the eyelids and eyelashes play a key role in preventing that.Besides serving as protective barriers, the lids and lashes also help the eyes stay moist. Without moisture, the corneas would dry out and could become cloudy or injured.Working with the lids and lashes, the protective system of glands and ducts (called the lacrimal system) keeps eyes from drying out. Small glands at the edge of the eyelid produce an oily film that mixes with the liquid part of tears and keeps them from evaporating.

Lacrimal (or tear-producing) glands secrete the watery part of tears. These glands are located under the browbone behind the upper eyelid, at the edge of the eye socket, and in the lids.

Eyelids move tears across the eyes. Tears keep the eyes lubricated and clean and contain antibodies that protect against infection. They drain out of the eyes through two openings (puncta, or lacrimal ducts), one on each of the upper and lower lids.

From these puncta, tears enter small tubes called canaliculi or ducts, located at the inner corner of the eyelids, then pass into the lacrimal sac, which is next to the inner corner of the eyes (between the eyes and the nose).

From the lacrimal sacs, tears move down through the nasolacrimal duct and drain into the back of the nose. (That's why you usually get a runny nose when you cry — your eyes are producing excess tears, and your nose can't handle the additional flow.) When you blink, the motion forces the lacrimal sacs to compress, squeezing tears out of them, away from the eyes, and into the nasolacrimal duct.

The nasolacrimal duct and the lacrimal ducts are also known as tear ducts. However, it's the nasolacrimal duct that's involved in tear-duct blockage.



Mark Dorfman

Mark Dorfman, MD


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